Revelation 22: The Garden of Life
The final chapter in the final book describes a wonderful scene of uninterrupted intimacy with God in the new creation.
- As we come to the end of our studies in Revelation, how has studying this book blessed you over the last few months (chapter 1.3 & 22.7b)? What have you found difficult to understand? What questions to you have unresolved?
- V1, how does the river of life illustrate the work of the Holy Spirit? How will our experience of the Holy Spirit be enlarged and deepened in the new creation?
- What are the parallels between this chapter and the Garden of Eden? How has the tree of life changed? How does God’s role in the two gardens’ compare (Genesis 3.8a)?
- V10, how does this verse compare with Daniel 12.9? What then is the connection between v10 and v11? What should be the impact of this “open prophecy” on our life (2 Peter 3.10-14)?
- V15 breaks the glorious scene with a note of reality that heaven is not for all (also compare 9.21 & 21.8). How do these verses balance our tendency to emphasise the intellectual aspects of salvation more than the resulting behavioural changes? What would you say to someone who believes that everyone will be saved, in the light of these verses and others?
- What is Jesus’ final encouragement to his people (v7, 12, 20)? How do we handle the fact that it has now been 2000 years since Jesus promised this (2 Peter 3.8-9)?
- As we finish our studies on Revelation has this journey made you more aware of the hope of heaven or the reality of the Second Coming? In what practical ways can we deepen our expectation and anticipation of heaven as individuals and a church?
The final chapter reminds us of a love letter from a long lost relative – “I am on my way, I’m coming soon, please be ready when I arrive”. The arrival may have been a long time coming in our counting but from the other side of eternity the waiting will seem like a momentary stopover between connecting flights on the way to see our loved one.
“Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3.1-2
The battle is over, the victory is here, welcome to the celebration party! As we draw near the final scenes in John’s vision the images of battle are replaced by an epic display of the splendour and majesty of the new created order.
- How does the scene described in this chapter contrast with the preceding chapters? What encouragements are there here for someone who is suffering persecution for their faith?
- If this vision is a true, but symbolic, representation of a future created order, what is it teaching us about God, his people, the world, sin and eternity?
- What do the city’s dimensions and choices of building material signify (v10-23)? How do they compare with the dimensions and choice of building material for the tabernacle in Exodus 26 & 27 and the temple in Ezekiel 40.5 – 41.26?
- How does this chapter echo and amplify chapter 1.6, 22 & 23 in its description of Jesus? What have we learnt about him in the intervening chapters?
- How would ancient Jewish believers have responded to this vision of a glorious Jerusalem, particularly as the temple lay in ruins when they received this letter? What building would be your symbolic restoration vision e.g. a ruined castle, an old church building or something else?
- To whom does the city of God belong and what are the criteria for entrance and exclusion (v7-8, 27)? How does God provide for sinful believers to enter this pure city (2 Corinthians 5.21)?
- How would this glorious vision inspire the seven churches of chapters 2-3, to preserve in hard times? How would it challenge them to take the warnings in the letters seriously?
What John saw was the beginning of a new story, described thus by CS Lewis in The Last Battle:
“The term is over, the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning….for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world…had only been the cover and the title page, now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
Well, its back to my old church from this week and I’m also back to producing the bible study notes for the house groups. We have missed a few chapters over the summer, so we are jumping into Revelation chapter 20:
The final scenes of the vision are about to be revealed – the enemies of God are destroyed and the dead are raised. But what does John’s vision have to say for us today – what is the message that we should hear to prepare us for this coming day?
- How would you describe this chapter to someone who is not a Christian? What would you tell them if they asked “how you can believe such weird fantasy?”
- Honestly, are we afraid to tell people about the second coming in case they ridicule us? What would you say to a fellow Christian who struggled to have the courage to speak up?
- Why do you think God paints such powerful images as this in chapter 20 – do you think they are symbolic or literal? Explain your answer. Outline the key events that occur in this chapter, the images that are used to describe them, and the significance of the numbers and symbols.
- If you believe the images are symbolic, do you think that makes the reality of the events the images are symbolising any less real? Do we really believe the events described in the chapter will one day happen? If so, what practical impact does this chapter have on your daily life today? How should knowing that the father of evil will be destroyed affect our attitude to sin now?
- Why do you think these verses are so divisive to Christians? What are the main things to keep in mind when discussing our different interpretations? How do we ensure that we do not make a particular interpretation more important than our Christian unity?
- Read verse 15 again – how does this make you feel for those without Christ? How can we allow the reality of this verse to alter our behaviour and attitudes here and now? What should our response be to the plight of the lost (Romans 9.1-3)?
- How does it make you feel to know how the story ends – “Jesus Wins”? How does this help us not to be fearful in front of an unbelieving world (see question 1)? How do bring the message that there is life after death to our secular nation in the light of verses 12-15?
Spend a few moments reading through Matthew 24.36-44 and preparing our own hearts for the final day. Pray also for those who we love that don’t yet know the great rescuer, Jesus.
These are the latest bible study notes for the home groups at Central Baptist Church, Dundee. For more about CBC click here.
Revelation Chapter 10: Sweet & Sour (word doc available here)
From observing the six trumpets as a bystander, suddenly John is caught up to participate in the unfolding revelation. A mighty angel arrives, ready to announce the unveiling of the mystery of God regarding the consummation of human history. John is invited to take the scroll and be the one to pronounce the message to the world.
- From your knowledge of our studies in Revelation so far, what do you think is the symbolic significance of the various images in v1 (i.e. cloud, rainbow, sun, fiery pillars)? What effect would these amazing images of mighty angels have had on the first readers of this letter?
- Jim reminded us that, like John, we are not passengers on a spiritual train, our beliefs must form our being, our doctrine our doing. Share a personal testimony with the group of how God has used your beliefs to transform your behaviour. Why do you think are our actions so powerful? What practical things could you do to serve your fellow Christians & neighbours?
- In v4 John is prevented from recording the message of the 7 thunders, Jim encouraged us that this was “to remind us that what we see is not all there is to see”. Why would God hide things from us? How did Satan manipulate our natural curiosity in the Garden of Eden? How does he still tempt us to doubt God’s care & wisdom?
- In his sermon Jim encouraged us to move from “observing, absorbing and now participating” – are we coasting or climbing in our spiritual journey? Do we need to renew our devotion to Jesus? Are we participating in the life of the church and reaching our community?
- V9, why is God’s message both sweet and sour (Ezekiel 2.9-3.3), why can’t it just be sweet? How do we maintain a proper balance between these two aspects of the gospel in our witness as individuals and as a church? How do grow in the courage required to share a sour message to a society that doesn’t want to hear it?
- What does v11 say to those who believe Christians should mind their own business and leave other religions alone? Does scripture give us a mandate to approach people from other beliefs (Matthew 28.19)? If so, how do we respect other cultures but challenge their beliefs?
- Jim remarked that “the message of judgement from the lips of a true prophet” will be characterised by weeping and mourning. Are you prepared to be used as a prophet by God? Are you willing to ask God to break you so that you would feel as he feels for the sin of his people and the lost?
Spend a few moments reflecting on your own spiritual journey and the calling of Christ to a sweet and sour ministry. “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?” 2 Corinthians 2.15-16. May God grant us grace to strive for greater faithfulness.
Revelation Chapters 8&9: Warning Sound (word doc available here)
These two chapters describe the opening of the seventh seal, and the sounding of the first six trumpets contained within. While the four angels had been told to wait while the sealing of God’s people is undertaken in the chapter 7.2-3, the full outpouring of God’s judgement is now resumed (9.14).
- The opening of the seventh seal leads to silence in heaven for 30 minutes. Why do you think this happens? What is the significance of silence in the bible (Habakkuk 2.20, Zephaniah 1.7, Zechariah 2.13)?
- One commentator says of 8.3-5 that “the saints in persecution and tribulation are praying. But their prayer life is imperfect. It needs to be incensed with the intercession of Christ.” What weaknesses do we feel in our prayer life? What aroma do our prayers make as they ascend to heaven?
- What is the relationship between the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5.8, 6.10, 8v3-4,) and the judgements of God (Revelation 8v5)? How does this connection shed light on why God allows his people to undergo suffering and injustice in this world? Do we rejoice that we are found worthy to suffer for his name when we suffer (1 Peter 4.12-14)?
- 8v7-12 describe terrible “unnatural” disasters. Think of some of the recent end-of-the-world disaster movies – what is the typical plot, and how are “religious” people portrayed, if at all? Why is society so obsessed with these movies? How does our understanding of science affect our interpretation of the “warning sounds” of contemporary natural disasters? What should be our response to a purely physical (i.e. geological) explanation?
- The fifth trumpet sees a star falling from the sky (9.1); v11 suggests that this was Satan (compare Luke 10.18). Why does God allow Satan to open the Abyss, given that this allows hosts of demonic locusts to plague the earth? How does God remain blameless, loving and righteous in using the Devil in this way?
- Even after all the terrible events that have just happened to mankind, those who are left refuse to repent of their evil ways (9v20-21). Why do you think they are not willing to repent despite seeing the consequences of their rebellion first hand? How does God feel about their stubbornness (Ezekiel 33.11, Matthew 23.37)? Do we share God’s sorrow?
As we survey this catastrophic scene it is important to remember that God has ordained all these events to happen. He has set their exact order and defined their boundary. He has used all of nature, including the earth, the sea, the rivers, the sky, his own angels and even the Devil – all for his own purposes and according to his own design. What a truly awe-inspiring God, may we worship him in wonder and fear.
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?” Romans 11.33-34
Revelation Chapter 7 – The 144,000 (word doc available here)
In many ways this chapter answers the desperate cry at the end of the previous chapter (6.17) – who can stand in the day of God’s wrath? – Only those protected by his seal (v1-8). The passage forms a break in the unveiling of the 7 seals, right before the final seal is opened. The second half of the chapter (v9-17) echoes back to the universal worship of chapter 5v13 and anticipates chapter 21v1-4.
- Why does God choose this moment to hold back the destructive forces coming upon the earth (v1) in order to seal his people? What is the seal (Revelation 14.1, Ephesians 1.13)? What difference does the seal make to them?
- If the seal is a mark of God’s Spirit, how can we know that we have received this mark (2 Corinthians 1.21-22 & Romans 8.14-16))? What does this mean for someone who believes we can never know if we are saved or not? Do you have assurance of your salvation?
- In v4 John hears the number of those to be sealed. Is this number symbolic or literal? Explain your answer. Who is missing from the list of sons, and which grandson is included? Does the fact that by AD70 the ancestral records of the 12 tribes had been lost effect your interpretation? If it is symbolic, what is it symbolising and who are included in this number?
- What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe this number to represent? How would you respond to their interpretation? Compare and contrast the two groups of believers in this chapter (v4 & v9) – do you think they are the same group of the redeemed church seen from two vantage points? Why or why not?
- One commentator writes that the 144,000 are “faithful believers about to enter the period of final testing”. What will the result of their faithfulness be (6.9-10, 14.1-5)? How would we feel if we were one of this number?
- What do we fear most about embracing suffering for the sake of Jesus? Would we be ready to lose our homes, jobs or life, or see those that we love suffer in order to remain faithful? What encouragement does this passage have for suffering persecution today for the sake of Christ?
- Another commentator states that God’s seal protects against tampering, marks ownership and certifies genuine character. If you are a Christian, how does this threefold stamp of adoption comfort you in the face of your own troubles and difficulties?
Spend a few moments meditating on the fact of God’s seal over your life, thanking him and offering our lives in adoration. Remember each other in the trials we each face and particularly those who face martyrdom today for the sake of the Lord.
Revelation Chapter 6: The Four Horsemen (word doc available here)
In this chapter we have the opening of six seals – the arrival of four horsemen take up the first four seals, with the fifth revealing the suffering of the martyrs and the six the collapse of the created world. As we seek to understand God’s message through this chapter, we need to prepare ourselves for some hard truths and searching questions.
- How would you define justice to someone who was not a Christian? Describe a time when you have sought justice for yourself or someone you love. What comfort is there in this chapter for the families of victims who desire justice for their loved ones?
- Justice is like a double-edged sword – we long for it to be expressed to others, but expect to be shown leniency for ourselves. How does our skewed view of sin underpin this distortion (Matt 7.3, Romans 3.23)? What are some of the things we tell ourselves or others to justify our own actions and convince ourselves that we will be ok (Psalm 10.10-13, Psalm 94.7, 2 Peter 3.4)?
- If we recognise that no one is perfect, why are we so surprised when judgement arrives? What are some of the examples of past judgements upon sin in the bible? Do you think it is helpful or dangerous to try and interpret contemporary natural or personal disasters as God’s judgement?
- If present day sufferings are compared by the apostle Paul to “labour pains” (Romans 8.22), what we have in this chapter is the inevitable and climatic birth of a new created order. How do the striking images in this chapter bring perspective to our present day experiences of suffering?
- How would you summarise the mission of the white, red, black and pale horsemen? How does their mission fulfil the desires of the martyrs, v10? Should we wish for judgement to come upon those who have persecuted us? Explain your answer.
- Do you think our lack of experience of physical persecution softens our attitude towards “the inhabitants of the earth”? How do we balance our desire for people to be saved with the desire for justice? How are these two desires combined & demonstrated in the cross (Romans 3.21-26)?
- Compare the “calls” of the two groups described in this passage – v 10 and v16-17. What has brought each group to this point? How do their contrasting predicament in this chapter compare with the current day? How can we be sure that we will be among those in white robes on this day (Romans 10.9-10)?
If the images in this chapter are haunting, then it is only so that we would be woken up from our stupor to realise that time is running out. Prayerfully read through 1 Thessalonians 5.1-6 and spend a few moments mediating on where we stand with God and if we are personally ready for this event.
Revelation Chapter 5 – The Lamb (Word doc available here)
In this week’s bible study the focus moves from the worship of God for his role in creation to the worship of the Lamb for his work in redemption. A scroll is revealed that contains the destiny of mankind, but it is sealed until the time of opening.
- Read v1-3, why is it significant that no one can be found to open the scroll? Why do you think this affected John so much?
- What makes us weep? How much do we grieve for the brokenness of our world; the plight of the lost; and the impurity of the church? What does Ezekiel 9.4-6 say about how much God values our brokenness over sin?
- V5, although a lion is introduced by the angel, John sees a slaughtered lamb. Why is a lamb on the throne instead of a lion? What do the 7 horns and 7 eyes signify (v6)? What attributes of Jesus does this emphasise?
- Jim reminded us that “this hero conquered not through strength but through weakness” – describe in your own words Jesus’ strengths and weaknesses from this chapter. How are these unlike other people’s strengths and weaknesses?
- Read Daniel 12.1-4 & Ezekiel 2.9-3.3 – what connection do these passages have with Revelation 5? Why does God choose to come to his prophets (John, Daniel & Ezekiel) with visions of the scroll when they are in exile? How has God spoken to you in times of difficulty and isolation?
- How does the centrality of the slain lamb contradict the values that our society respects (1 Corinthians 1.18-25)? How does God overcome this stumbling block? Why do you think that God chooses humility and weakness rather than overwhelm us with his power and majesty?
- How does it make you feel to think that there are millions of angels worshiping Jesus right now? What difference will this reality make to how you go into your workplace, home and community tomorrow?
We lift our voices with the heavenly host and praise and magnify the lamb that was slain:
“Come and weep, come and mourn, For your sin that pierced him here, So much deeper than the wounds of thorn and nail. All our pride, all our greed, All our fallenness and shame, And the Lord has laid the punishment on him. We worship at your feet, Where wrath and mercy meet, And a guilty world is washed by love’s pure stream. For us he was made sin, Oh, help me take it in, Deep wounds of love cry out “Father, forgive”, I worship, I worship the lamb that was slain.”
Revelation Study 7) The Throne (Chapter 4) for word doc click here
From acting as a scribe, writing down messages for the 7 churches, John now becomes a seer, seeing into the heavenly realms. This chapter represents a powerful introduction to the spiritual world beyond the material world and begins with an overwhelming vision of the throne of God.
- Why does John’s vision begin with a throne room? What is the significance of a throne to the message of Revelation? What difference does it make that God is at the centre of the universe?
- Jim reminded us that this is “a circumstance-defying vision for a sidelined people”. Do you feel that your faith sidelines you from society? How does this vision re-ignite our confidence? Why do we struggle to see through our circumstances to the reality of this vision?
- Read Ezekiel chapter 1 – how does the imagery in this chapter compare or contrast with Revelation chapters 1 & 4? What is God’s purpose in granting such visions to his prophets?
- Why would the imagery of this scene encourage the first hearers of this letter? What is the significance of the 24 elders, rainbow, thrones, sea of glass and living creatures?
- What attributes of God do we see displayed and worshipped in this chapter? How does this compare with our praise & prayer life? Do you find it difficult to adore God’s greatness and glory, if so why do you think that is?
- How do you think the churches in Ephesus, Pergamum, Sardis and Laodicea would feel about entering the throne room of God of chapter 4? How might their emotions be different from the faithful but persecuted church in Smyrna? What does our response to God’s majesty tell us about the state of our own hearts?
- What would you say to someone who said “I don’t understand this idea of a God who says, “You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I’m the best, and then I’ll give you eternal happiness. If you won’t, then you don’t get it! It seemed to be about ego. I can’t see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me (ref).” How does this chapter explain why eternal adoration of God is not egomania?
This vision is a timely reminder to the 7 churches, and us, of God’s power and majesty. He truly is the Almighty, Awesome God; may this vision reignite our passion for praising and worshipping Him.
Revelation Study 6) Philadelphia – Faithful Church (Chapter 3.7-13) word doc available here
The church in Philadelphia is the only church to receive no rebuke from Jesus – and yet to all appearances they were the weakest church among the seven. Jesus’ words to his churches repeatedly hammer home the importance he places on faithfulness – about all other values. The challenge comes to us over and over again; do we love what he loves, hate what he hates? – do we share his values?
- Would you rather be part of a small, unknown, struggling church or a large, well recognised, active church? If we didn’t have Jesus’ analysis, how attractive would Sardis and Philadelphia be to us, honestly?
- What are the characteristics of a faithful church? What does it mean to be faithful in our beliefs, desires, ambitions, suffering, commitments, service, actions, finances & relationships? Do you think we are more tempted to be unfaithful in our theology or practice?
- What is the difference between tradition and faithfulness? How do we remain faithful to Jesus and his words, without becoming out of touch? How do we combine such faithfulness with our desire to be relevant to an “image over substance “society? What are some of the areas where we can be creative?
- How does Jesus’ message for this church challenge our perceptions about a successful church? Are numerical growth and spiritual growth connected, or not? Which one is our primary concern for CBC? How should this express itself in our ministry priorities?
- Where has God provided us with an Open Door? What is our confidence as we walk through it? How does v7 encourage us to preserve in hard times?
- How does our external environment compare with that in 1st century Philadelphia? Is it harder to be faithful in times of comfort than in times of persecution? Why or why not?
- Do you think our affluence and materialism saps our willingness to be socially ostracised for the sake of the gospel? What would a truly faithful believer, family, church look like in our day?
While it’s true that spiritual apathy breeds in calm waters, God can and does visit his children with times of refreshment and blessing in every age. May God grant that we would know this reviving touch in our day and in our church, come Lord Jesus, come.